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Top 25 countdown: No. 2 Florida

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.

September 02, 2009|Chris Dufresne

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.

No. 2 Florida

John McEnroe just phoned in to call Rankman for a football fault.

"You can't be serious!"

What in tar-Gator-nation is going on?

Florida is No. . . . 2?

Nobody makes a giant foam finger for that.

Humiliating, insulting, outrageous . . . or, just relax.

No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series standings race is just as good as No. 1. In fact, it's better.

The last four champions won the BCS title from the No. 2 position -- and Florida did it twice, 2006 and last year.

Since 2001, the only school that has won it all from the top BCS spot was USC in 2004.

So, Rankman is doing Florida a favor, taking some of the pressure off. Rarely does a team begin a season with so much hype and live up to it.

Florida State went wire to wire in 1999, and USC did it in 2004. Otherwise, it's hard.

The Gators are such clear-cut favorites to win the national title this season you wonder if they're too good be true. Florida earned 58 of a possible 60 first-place votes in the preseason Associated Press poll and 53 out of 59 in the USA Today coaches' index.

It's a wonder we're even playing the season, even though most of the adulation is warranted. Florida returns 11 starters from last year's defense that held Oklahoma, a team that averaged 51 points a game, to 14 in the BCS title game.

The Gators' offense loses superstar Percy Harvin and receiver Louis Murphy, leaving the Gators with two dependable but not spectacular pass catchers in David Nelson and Riley Cooper.

Speed and depth at running back are not problems, with the tag team of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey returning.

And of course, there's old what's-his-name back at quarterback, although Tim Tebow hasn't won a Heisman Trophy in, what, two years?

It's difficult for a team that has accomplished so much to accomplish it again, but Tebow won't allow this team to get complacent.

Nothing on the field is going to get to him. As usual, Tebow spent his off-season ministering to prisoners and the less fortunate in the Philippines.

"People talk about pressure," he said. "Pressure is when you're in a hospital fighting for your life. Pressure is when you're in the Philippines and you don't know where your next meal is going to come from. . . . It gives me so much more of a perspective on the football field."

Florida's schedule is Gatorade-made for a repeat. The Gators play Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International in nonconference games and only two games of real concern away from the Swamp -- at Louisiana State on Oct. 10 and Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 31.

Also, Florida would not have to face Mississippi or Alabama until the SEC championship game.

What will keep Florida motivated? The Gators have won three national titles but have never had an undefeated season.

"It's obviously a goal," Tebow said.

The countdown so far: 25. UCLA; 24. Nevada; 23. Notre Dame; 22. Oregon State; 21. Florida State; 20. Nebraska; 19. North Carolina; 18. Utah; 17. Georgia Tech; 16. California; 15. Virginia Tech; 14. Alabama; 13. Georgia; 12. Boise State; 11. Texas Christian; 10. Mississippi; 9. Louisiana State; 8. Ohio State; 7. Oklahoma State; 6. Oregon; 5. Penn State; 4. USC; 3. Oklahoma; 2. Florida.

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chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/DufresneLATimes

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